Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

A Penguin by Any Other Name is Still a Penguin

Posting the First Wednesday of every month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group, is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh. YOU can sign up HERE to participate.

Every month a question will be posed that may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Remember, the question is optional. You can write about anything that relates to your writing journey.

Let's give a warm welcome to our co-hosts:   Joylene Nowell Butler, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Meka James, Diane Burton, Victoria Marie Lees, and M Louise Barbour!

This month's question is: When you are working on a story, what inspires you?
Hmmm. When I'm working on a story, the story inspires me. The characters, the setting, the scene.

Origins: a recurring post in which I delve into the history of a word or phrase.

Today's word is: PENGUIN!
I bet you don't know the origin of this word. It certainly came as a surprise to me. It's... Welsh! 

Back in the 1570s it was the name given to the great auk of Newfoundland which became extinct in 1844. Birds that looked similar to the great auk were seen by Sir Francis Drake in Magellan's Straits in 1578 and he may have contributed to the Antarctic birds being called penguins as it was in use by the 1580s.

Great Auk (Pinguinis impennis) specimen, Kelvingrove, Glasgow - - 1108249
Penguin is believed to come from pen, meaning "head", (a word found in Penzance, pendragon and Pennsylvania) and the word gwyn (as in Gwendolyn) meaning "white, shining." As you can see from the preserved specimen at the right, it does look rather like the birds we now call penguins, like the Chinstrap, below.
Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica) (2302883511) 
Just to confuse things, there is also the possibility that the word penguin comes from the Latin word penguis, which means "fat, juicy" and figuratively refers to something "dull, gross, or heavy."
I like the Welsh origin story better.

LoanWord: A word adopted from a foreign language with little or no modification. 
Today's loan words come to us from Irish, Scottish, and Gaelic. Bob (as in short hair), Cairn, Clan, Crag, Galore, Glen, Pet (as in a domesticated or tame animal), Paid, Whiskey (of course!) Hubbub, Shanty, and Smidgen. 

Such great words!

Dribble to a Still

There was a hubbub going on in the shanty. He opened the door, just a smidgen, and peeked inside. What a mess! The still was broken apart and most of the whiskey bottles, so carefully corked, were broken. In the middle of the carnage a giant penguin reeled.

Being Thankful

Today I'm thankful for my sister, who is coming to visit this month for her first annual checkup since her heart valve replacement. Yes, it's been a year already! 


  1. Fun words. I especially like cairn and crag. My daughter has always adored penguins. Wishing you a marvelous visit with your sister, Bish.

  2. The penguin name gets to live on. I love penguins. Ever since Opus from Bloom County!

  3. Um, yeah, I like the Welsh version too! LOL

  4. A drunken penguin is certainly an interesting story prompt. I had a meme on my desktop for years of one penguin smacking another in the back of the head making it fall into open water. Such majestic and yet comical creatures, always ready for a formal event. My Welsh ancestors thank you for thinking of them!

  5. Interesting word history! I always love knowing why something is named. I guess we'll never know which was the true history, but that's okay.

  6. Enjoy your sister's visit! I love penguins. The Spanish words for penguin are pinguina and pinguino, which makes me think both English, Spanish, and Welsh are all descended from the original Latin.

  7. Yes. Inspiration can come from many different places, and I'm grateful for all of them.

  8. I did not know "Pen" in Pennsylvania meant head! I thought my state was named for William Penn or his father. (Penn's Woods, sylvania meaning woods.) Head Woods? Interesting.

    I'm co-hosting at the IWSG this month. Did you know that June is Audiobook Appreciation Month?

    J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Speculative Fiction &Reference Author, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, and Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge


Your Random Thoughts are most welcome!